Having an online shop doesn’t end with getting a sale. It is not like digital items where it is instantly ‘shipped’ to the customer upon order. For online shops that sell physical items, the picture is quite different. They still need to ship items to the consumer in order to tag the transaction as complete.
For this, a carrier or courier is needed. These companies act as transporters of products from the seller to the customer. While the seller can have their own in-house delivery team, outsourcing this task may be the best option. Think about it. Would you rather hire and manage your delivery team yourself? Or would you rather have an expert do it Instead?
In the United States, there are two carriers that are vying for the top spot. These are UPS and USPS. Their names may seem similar but they are two completely different organizations. Here’s a quick description of each.
What is USPS?
USPS stands for United States Postal Service. It is an independent federal agency in the US government that has the ability to reach every address in the entire nation. Since it is a government office, it has access to 155 million residences, business and PO boxes in the United States. It is able to sustain itself through its postage, products and services.
USPS continues to be the leader in shipping services in terms of price. It has the lowest flat rate and even gives its customers some free shipping containers.
What is UPS?
UPS, on the other hand, stands for United Parcel Service of America. It is a company that offers more than just delivery services. In fact, it has its own airline and is active in the following industries: healthcare, retail, automotives, high-tech and aerospace. It is known not only for its basic parcel service but also for its global logistics and distribution and global freight forwarding.
With this, it goes beyond just shipping items within the country’s borders. Instead, it ships items to international locations as well. The focus of UPS is on speed. It is the only carrier that can ship an item to its destination overnight. It has the earliest delivery time for overnight shipping (8:00 am). So if you want your item to reach its destination fast, then UPS may be the company for you.
Which Should You Choose?
But there is more to USPS and UPS than just that brief description. For you to know the right carrier for your business, you need to take a closer look at the two. Today, you’ll be able to view the two organizations in a different light. Specifically, you’ll learn all about their pricing, convenience, shipping options, weight limit, drop-off locations, tracking and insurance.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
If you are looking for the lowest prices, then you can depend on USPS. As long as your items do not exceed 70 pounds, then USPS can continue to serve you. The price of USPS is significantly lower compared with that of UPS as long as you are below the 10 pound mark. The reason why USPS is cheaper has something to do with its flat rate shipping containers. It requires its customers to fit items into its 11” x 8.5” x 5.5” containers. Prices will be higher if you will use your own container or packaging.
How much will an average package cost in USPS? Well, that will depend on 3 factors. First, it will depend on the size. There is the 12x10x6 option, a 8x8x8 option and a 24x12x12 option. It also depends on weight. The lowest for weight is 2 pounds. Third is location. You have to know if you are within the 8-zone, 6-zone or 4-zone transit.
Here’s a sample computation. Let’s say that you are shipping a 2 pound item in a 12x10x6 package. If the location is within the 8-zone transit, this means that USPS will only charge you $10.28. This is lower compared to UPS’s $13.10 charge not to mention that even charges a fuel surcharge and residential surcharge making your final cost $17.19.
How about a 2 pound 8x8x8 package? USPS doesn’t charge anything more than its base charge of $9.19. This is lower than the $15.16 charge of UPS that again includes a fuel and residential surcharge.
On the surface, it seems that USPS is the obvious option. While this is true, you have to look at the prices as items become heavier. As the item becomes heavier, the difference becomes closer. In fact, some ecommerce website owners who sell heavy items on a regular basis prefer UPS over USPS because it doesn’t have the 7-lb limit. On top of this, UPS also provides insurance for all products shipped plus it can be more economical if your delivery can be delivered in 1 to 5 business days.
USPS can serve all areas in the United States. That’s not an understatement. Since it is the Postal Office of the United States, it has a database of all addresses in the entire country. This means that it can serve every location no matter how far it is from the urban area. Being a government agency is also good for easy business owner access. A trip to the local post office can already give you access to USPS. And that’s not all. You don’t even need to worry about packaging. USPS has a Priority Express Mail option that provides free packaging to its customers.
UPS, on the other hand, doesn’t limit itself to the United States. Instead, it has over 63,000 offices worldwide. This means that you will not only be able to ship in the United States area, you can also ship to other countries as well. This works both ways because this means that you can also ship from other countries to the United States.
Another great thing about UPS is access. You can find them in every Staples or Office Depot store in the entire nation. And in those cases where you just cannot visit their office, they can come to you. Just schedule a pick-up and their delivery men will visit you.
USPS offers a variety of options depending on your desired delivery time. You can have items shipped as early as 10:30 am the next day, in 1 to 2 business days or in 2 to 3 business days. Prices can vary depending on the weight and kind of the item. You need to categorize your item based on its kind (envelope, small package or large package). Then, you also need to tag it as ‘urgent’ or ‘non-urgent’ in order to determine the price.
But if you’re in a rush and you want the item to reach the receiver at 8:00 am the next day, then UPS is your friend. As I have discussed earlier, they are the fastest in next day delivery and provide options on the desired time for delivery (8:00 am, 10:30 am or noon). But there are also other options such as 2-day, 3-day and 4-day deliveries. Non-urgent deliveries are then delivered for 5 days. Again, you will need to tag the type of item as well as its urgency.
Weight limits is another thing that you should consider when choosing your courier. If you regularly ship heavy items, you may want to use UPS instead of USPS.
Although USPS is the cheapest, it has a weight limit of 70 pounds. This means that you cannot ship anything that is heavier than that. UPS, on the other hand, has the option of shipping items up to 150 pounds. With this, UPS may be a better option for ecommerce sellers of heavy items because it doesn’t have a low weight limit.
USPS offers a variety of drop-off locations. You can set a delivery address, a PO box, a APO or just hold the item in the post office. UPS, on the other hand, only delivers to addresses and arranges items for pick up in their offices. You may want to consider these as you choose your carrier.
In USPS, tracking is only available for packages that used Priority Mail Express, First Class Mail or Priority Mail. Through this feature, the customer and sender is able to track the packages in each point. But if the package is sent normally, they are only able to track that the item went out. This means that both the customer and the sender will only have a ‘sent out’ status. They will not be able to track the parcel in different points.
UPS is different. It offers detailed tracking for up to 25 shipped packages. With this, you are able to track where the item is at each point for free. There is a limit of tracking 25 packages though. This means that you cannot track anything beyond that. Also, there’s a limit on the number of tracking numbers you can store in your delivery history. You can only store as much as 50 tracking numbers in your tracking history.
I like UPS because it gives you the option to track your parcels via email. This allows you to have an email notification at each point in the product’s delivery route.
UPS may be the best option if security is an important issue for you. It may also help you update your customer on where your package is.
USPS offers an insurance of $50 to $100 depending on the item shipped. This insurance is free and comes with every item shipped using USPS. UPS, on the other hand, also offers $100 insurance on all items shipped. The only difference is that it also provides extra insurance if the customer needs it. This will help in giving both the buyer and the seller the peace of mind that the item is safe no matter what happens.
Here is a summary of all the factors I have discussed in this article. It contains some of the most important information that you would like to know about your carrier.
$10.28 Basic Price
$17.19 Basic Price
Next Day Shipping
10:30am Earliest Time for Shipping
8:30 am Earliest Time for Shipping
2-Day and 3-Day and Non-Urgent Deliveries
2-Day, 3-Day, 4-Day and Non-Urgent Deliveries
Delivery address; PO Box; APO; pick-up
Delivery address and pick-up
None except if Priority Mail or First Class Mail
Yes for the 1st 25 packages shipped
$100 (FREE) + Option for Extra Insurance
Which carrier should you choose?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer that for you. You need to look at the following things in order to find the answer:
- What is the weight of the items that you frequently ship?
- Are you paying for the shipping rate or is your customer paying for it?
- How much are you or your customer willing to pay for shipping rate?
- How will the items be received? Should it be delivered to an address or PO box or will it be picked up?
- How much is the worth of the items you are shipping? Does a $100 insurance cover the worth of the item?
- How important is your item’s security for you?
- How fast do you want the items shipped?
- Which carrier is nearest to you in terms of location?
Now, you can try answering all of these questions. But choose only those that are important to you. There’s no right or wrong choice. You just need to choose the factors that matters most to you and choose your carrier from there.
Be sure to take note of the nature of your business – The items that you frequently ship and the nature of your customers (how fast do they want the products to reach them, how much are they willing to pay in terms of shipping fees and how safe do they want their items to be?). These will guide you in choosing the right carrier for your business.